There are rising concerns with our current food system’s sustainability, and more specifically, its ability to feed the 9 billion people that the earth is expected to house by 2050. These concerns revolve around the depletion of natural resources, climate change factors, limited arable land, and a handful of other daunting challenges -with one of the biggest concerns being the cultivation of protein.
Currently protein cultivation is mostly seen in the form of fish farms and livestock operations, both of which are extremely resource intensive, and to put it simply…tend to be quite inefficient. For that reason many food system strategists are turning their attention toward the cultivation of edible insects, a seemingly taboo food solution that has many people -for lack of better word- grossed out.
The question is -why are we grossed out? Is it because insects are inherently disgusting, or is it simply a negative perspective socially constructed by Western cultures?
Fact of the matter is, humans inhabiting every corner of the globe have been consuming insects since before recorded history, and they still do today. Which may have you asking…
“Wait…Who is eating insects in this day and age?”
Well actually… we all are are!
According to the FDA…
“The current FDA Food Defect Action Levels states that on average there is 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams of wheat flour.”
…and that’s just wheat flour. Not to mention nearly all canned and processed foods, Check it out.
But wait, no need to worry!
The FDA states that these contaminants pose no inherent hazard to health. In fact, insects are packed full of minerals, vitamins, and protein, making them highly nutritious.
But the bugs sneaking in your sandwich bread isn’t really that important -even though they very well could be the reason that more vegans don’t suffer from B12 deficiencies (post for another time). What is important, is the fact that the future sustainability of our food system may depend on the consumption of these little critters.
The reason for this is simple: insects are extremely efficient energy converters.
Meaning they require much less natural resources -such as water, land, feed, and fossil fuels- to cultivate compared to conventional livestock.
They are so much more efficient in fact; that the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations published a report pointing out the critical role that insect cultivation could play in feeding the world’s rising population. The report discusses insects many benefits and highlights their efficiency compared to conventional livestock by explaining:
1 kg of live animal weight beef in a typical United States production system requires 10 kg of feed. Insects require far less feed- such as the production of crickets with 1 kg of live animal weight requiring as little as 1.7 kg of feed. When these figures are adjusted for edible weight, crickets are 12 times more efficient than cattle.
Think about it like this: insects are tiny machines, these machines run on waste, vegetation, and other organic compounds and output protein. Point being… put 2 pounds of corn (or food scraps) in a box with crickets, and it will be transformed into more than a pound of high-quality-human-edible protein.
…Food for thought!
Or… thought for food?